County adopts new flood maps
The Reno County Commission on Tuesday adopted a resolution approving new a federal flood plain map along segments of the Arkansas River and Cow Creek watersheds.
Formal adoption of the map that run from the county’s northern border to just north of Haven – that have been in a review process for nearly two years – will occur on Jan. 29, Reno County Planner Mark Vonachen advised the commission. Until then, current map, adopted in 2010, will remain in place.
Under the new map, nearly half of the city of South Hutchinson is now designated within floodplains, while half of Nickerson that had been identified as in the flood plain for decades is no longer.
The new map, developed using the latest aerial measuring technology, also adds to the flood plain several areas along Cow Creek as it runs through Hutchinson and some neighborhoods on the southern half of the Cow Creek diversion canal on the city’s west side.
The map can be viewed at http://gis2.kda.ks.gov/gis/reno/ or through a link on the Planning Department’s website.
Most of the areas added to the flood plain are due to anticipated “ponding” on the opposite sides of levees built to prevent flooding, as floodwaters back up in those streams.
The importance of the maps is that structures within a designated floodplain require flood insurance coverage to obtain a mortgage on the property.
Along with the adoption of the new maps, the commission approved adopting new flood plain regulations that apply countywide.
The regulations, Vonachen said, require a permit from his office and the state to make any changes that could impact floodways, including any constructions, bridges, dikes, or changes to wetlands. In exchange for the count adopting the regulations, Vonachen said, the Federal Emergency Management Administration makes federally-backed flood insurance available within the county.
“Failure to adopt means no new (insurance) policies would be issued and all existing flood policies would expire when they came due,” he said.
The only significant change to the regulations, Vonanchen said, was the removal of “cumulative improvement” language.
It previously required that any improvements done over a five-year period that were cumulatively greater than the value of the original structure had to be elevated a foot above the 100-year flood elevation.
“I felt it was too restrictive, so I took out,” Vonanchen said. “You can put it back in if you desire.”
The commission expressed no desire to do so.
Property owners who object to the new maps still have time to apply to protest, but it’s a process that is managed by FEMA and requires a surveyor certifying elevations of a structure are outside the flood plain, Vonachen said.
FEMA granted more than a dozen properties new “letters of map amendment,” or “letters of map revision,” but 10 properties were not, Vonachen said.
“The reason for that is that the base flood has changed,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of these people built too low. They can still get insurance, but it will be at a higher rate.”
They can also pay off any mortgages and not be required to have insurance, though it makes it more difficult to sell a property.
“This is a much better map,” Vonachen said. “It’s the best technology we have now. It’s based on ground elevation. The plus or minus actuary is one or two feet.”
Studies are now beginning on the Little Arkansas and Ninnescah river basins, but completion is four or five years out, he said.